Calcium channel blocker ingestion: An evidence-based consensus guideline for out-of-hospital management

Kent Olson, Andrew Erdman, Alan Woolf, Elizabeth Scharman, Gwenn Christianson, E. Martin Caravati, Paul Wax, Lisa Booze, Anthony Manoguerra, Daniel Keyes, Peter Chyka, William Troutman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


In 2003, U.S. poison control centers were consulted after 9650 ingestions of calcium channel blockers (CCBs), including 57 deaths. This represents more than one-third of the deaths reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers' Toxic Exposure Surveillance System database that were associated with cardiovascular drugs and emphasizes the importance of developing a guideline for the out-of-hospital management of calcium channel blocker poisoning. The objective of this guideline is to assist poison center personnel in the appropriate out-of-hospital triage and initial management of patients with suspected ingestions of calcium channel blockers. An evidence-based expert consensus process was used to create this guideline. This guideline applies to ingestion of calcium channel blockers alone and is based on an assessment of current scientific and clinical information. The expert consensus panel recognizes that specific patient care decisions may be at variance with this guideline and are the prerogative of the patient and the health professionals providing care, considering all of the circumstances involved. The panel's recommendations follow. The grade of recommendation is in parentheses. 1) All patients with stated or suspected self-harm or the recipient of a potentially malicious administration of a CCB should be referred to an emergency department immediately regardless of the amount ingested (Grade D). 2) Asymptomatic patients are unlikely to develop symptoms if the interval between the ingestion and the call is greater than 6 hours for immediate-release products, 18 hours for modified-release products other than verapamil, and 24 hours for modified-release verapamil. These patients do not need referral or prolonged observation (Grade D). 3) Patients without evidence of self-harm should have further evaluation, including determination of the precise dose ingested, history of other medical conditions, and the presence of co-ingestants. Ingestion of either an amount that exceeds the usual maximum single therapeutic dose or an amount equal to or greater than the lowest reported toxic dose, whichever is lower (see Table 5), would warrant consideration of referral to an emergency department (Grade D). 4) Do not induce emesis (Grade D). 5) Consider the administration of activated charcoal orally if available and no contraindications are present. However, do not delay transportation in order to administer charcoal (Grade D). 6) For patients who merit evaluation in an emergency department, ambulance transportation is recommended because of the potential for life-threatening complications. Provide usual supportive care en route to the hospital, including intravenous fluids for hypotension. Consider use of intravenous calcium, glucagon, and epinephrine for severe hypotension during transport, if available (Grade D). 7) Depending on the specific circumstances, follow-up calls should be made to determine outcome at appropriate intervals based on the clinical judgment of the poison center staff (Grade D).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-822
Number of pages26
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


  • Calcium antagonists
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Calcium entry blockers
  • Poison control centers/standards
  • Poisoning
  • Practice guidelines
  • Prehospital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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